University Greek clubs adapting for preservation

For years young Greek-Australians have sought ways to engage in their culture and learn about the origins of their ancestors.

Last year’s lockdowns brought many Greek youth groups to a standstill, forcing many to cancel events that hundreds of people looked forward to, but not all was lost.

With a good grip on technology and internet literacy, youth run organisations made sure to power on through.

In this three part series, representatives from Greek youth groups from across Victoria share the efforts they made to ensure that young Greeks remained well connected to their community and heritage despite being in lockdown.

Part two features university cultural organisations NUGAS, the Melbourne University Greek Association (MUnGA) and Monash Hellenic Students Society (MHSS).

Janna Trifon – NUGAS Independent Representative

Janna Trifon Photo: Supplied

Like many not-for-profit organisations we were extremely excited for the new term to commence with vibrant new ideas for our community; however we found ourselves diverting our ideas through virtual platforms. To encourage everyone’s love for cooking, our introduction of Sintagi Sunday’s showcased our committee members’ favorite recipes passed down from their loved ones, with the intention of spreading traditional family-favourite Greek foods to the community.

In partnership with Fronditha Care, our members documented their methods and shared these much loved traditions with Fronditha. Alongside this, we recommenced our podcast Ta Leme. Ta Leme focuses on a variety of topics that target the Greek diaspora, ranging from discussions of the promised prides, Greek dancing, art and identity and many more.

Given the virtual nature of our new normal, we partnered with Greek schools to offer additional assistance to VCE Greek students, as well as working with the Greek Studies faculty at La Trobe University to save this integral program. Our 50 year anniversary is not how we ended to remark this milestone, although we are working behind the scenes to bring our past and present members a memorable artifact.

We would like to thank everyone for their support throughout this challenging year. We are currently working to bring back one of our community’s much loved annual NUGAS events! Stay tuned on our social media for further information.

Kion Sapountzis – MUnGA President

Kion Sapountzis Photo: Supplied

Being trapped away at home, stuck behind a computer screen has been a challenge for all of us. Life also changed for clubs and societies at university, including our beloved Hellenic clubs. We were forced to adapt to the new, online environment around us, to better connect with our members and keep our club sustainable.

Gone are the afternoons on campus eating baklavades on South Lawn and sharing a frappe with friends, now the social interactions that clubs once provided on campus, exist off campus in the social media realm.

To sustain ourselves, the Melbourne University Greek Association (MUnGA) turned to the online space to post content on our social media pages and connect with fellow university students through online events. This was challenging for everyone, as it had become easy to distance ourselves away from those clubs and societies we previously connected with, but by adapting to the new environment around us, we can ensure the longevity of our wonderful Greek clubs and societies across Melbourne, through the online space.

Aristea Nikolakakis – MHSS Co-President

Aristea Nikolakakis Photo: Supplied

In a year of innovating new ways to stay connected, the MHSS community did just that.

The year began with our usual speak Greek in March initiatives, which in 2020 saw weekly Greek idioms and conversational prompts giving members an easy place to start when trying to practise their Greek.

If that wasn’t enough, we saw the introduction of our Casual Conversation Club, where members met weekly and were split into language-level groups in order to practise their conversational Greek. Aware that many members wished to extend their Greek fluency beyond just conversational Greek, we partnered with the Greek Centre’s Greek classes to offer perks for Monash students enrolling in their program.

Using the pandemic as an opportunity to explore Greek culture, our ‘Stay Home with MHSS’ posts featured weekly Greek-inspired activities to do at home, including Hellenic books to read, productions to be live-streamed, and podcasts to listen to. Of course, we had to include the all-important traditional recipes and online Acropolis tour too!

As our club grows into the new online landscape, we set up initiatives that weren’t only temporarily online, but were built to last into the future, such as our online Speed-Friending event with the Monash Cultural clubs and Greek cooking classes with Monash Vegans.

Moving forward from 2020, we hope MHSS continues to be as far-reaching and inclusive as possible, as we ensured we had events, initiatives and ideas to keep everyone connected, regardless of their level of Greek, connection to the motherland, or favourite parts of Hellenism.

A special thank you goes to our extraordinary committee and enthusiastic members for making 2020 truly remarkable.